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Gruden Makes It Official; Griese To Start Sunday
Posted Sep 10, 2008 by Roy Cummings
Updated Sep 10, 2008 at 08:09 PM
TAMPA Something is wrong with Jeff Garcia, something that goes way beyond that ankle problem that materialized overnight Sunday.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden isn’t sure what it is. All he knows is he can’t trot Garcia out onto the field as his starting quarterback again until the problem is corrected.
That’s why Gruden told Garcia on Tuesday and the rest of the world Wednesday that Brian Griese will start at quarterback for the Bucs when they take on the Falcons on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
“I’m a pretty good judge of Jeff Garcia and I’m a big believer in him,” Gruden said in explaining the move. “I just believe that right now, what we’re seeing is not what Jeff Garcia is capable of doing.
“Right now he’s not the same guy that he was. So until I see the ball thrown with the crisp, accurate velocity, the confident swagger that we’re used to seeing, we’re going to let him sit out.”
The change didn’t come as much of a surprise. Garcia struggled in the opener against the Saints last week, missing several open receivers, and Gruden sounded a lot like a guy who was ready to make a switch when he revealed Garcia’s ankle injury Monday.
Nor will it come as much of a surprise if this change becomes permanent. Gruden said he was simply giving Garcia the week off to find his rhythm, but there’s a good chance Griese will remain the starter if he can pull the Bucs back onto the winning track.
“Hey, life is all about making the most of your opportunities,” said Gruden, who saw Griese make quite a lot out of an opportunity with the Bucs back in 2004.
After taking over for a struggling Brad Johnson and an injured Chris Simms in Week 5 of that year, Griese won four of his first seven starts to help the Bucs rebound from an 0-4 start.
He didn’t rally the Bucs well enough to get them into the playoffs that year, but he did impress them enough to return as the starter in 2005. Griese took good advantage of that opportunity as well.
He guided the Bucs to victories in each of their first four games and was helping them win their fifth game in six tries when a knee sprain knocked him out for the season.
Simms took over after that and after finishing off the Bucs’ 2005 playoff run, Simms was named the Bucs starter for 2006. Griese, meanwhile, was deemed too expensive and expendable, and after being let go, he signed with the Bears.
Griese didn’t get much of an opportunity in the Windy City. He didn’t start a game for the Bears in 2006 and was removed as the starter after only six starts there in 2007.
He was looking at spending another year as a Chicago backup when the Bucs brought him back in a trade this past offseason. Now Griese is right back where he was in 2005, which suits him just fine.
“When I left here in 2005, I felt like I had unfinished business here,” Griese said. “I mean, it really hurt when I was injured and didn’t have a chance to come back.
“I knew we had a good team, and really, [being let go] stung. Ever since then I wanted that chance to come back and finish that business and that’s how I’m going to approach this opportunity.”
Griese, 33, faces a lot of the same challenges as Garcia, who was not made available to the media Wednesday and did not respond to phone or text messages left for him.
He takes over a first-unit offense that he has not run for nearly three weeks. It’s possible he could struggle to find his rhythm in much the same way Garcia did, but with the Bucs sitting at 0-1, he says he can’t afford to do that.
“I have to hit the ground running, so I have to do everything I can this week to be prepared so that come Sunday, I can be up to speed,” Griese said. “There is no room for error.”
Garcia, who missed the majority of training camp and the preseason because of a right calf strain, struggled mostly to get into sync with Joey Galloway, the Bucs’ top offensive weapon.
Griese, who ran the offense in Garcia’s stead and compiled a 94.2 passer rating along the way, has barely worked at all with Galloway this year, but he believes he and Galloway can make a connection quickly.
“The one unique thing is that I do have a relationship with Joey going back a ways,” said Griese, who worked with Galloway in 2004 and 2005. “I’ve thrown a lot of balls to him in my career, so I’ll lean on that.
“He is a unique individual when you’re throwing the ball to him. The next two days we’ll try to get as much work in together as we can and then go out on Sunday and do the best we can against Atlanta.”